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How To Help A Child With Separation Anxiety At School

But Wheres The Proof That Therapy Will Help My Anxiety

Helping Your Kindergartener with Separation Anxiety

There is a huge field of research around the effects of therapy on anxiety, with several dedicated charities working to further knowledge and evidence, such as Anxiety Research UK.

Cognitive behavioural therapy in particular has been researched for its effects on anxiety and various anxiety disorders. One large scale overview of research on the affects of CBT on anxiety and anxiety orders looked at studies covering almost 1500 subjects and found CBT therapy consistently created an improvement for anxiety sufferers compared to placebo conditions.

Another form of therapy currently being researched for its affect on anxiety sufferers and showing positive results is mindfulness-based therapy. For example, a study at the University of Oxford found that out of 273 subjects there was a reported 58% reduction in anxiety levels.

Helping Your Child Return After School Absence

Getting back to school after weeks or months can feel extremely difficult for a young person, but you and the school can help make it more manageable. Here are some things you can do to help:

  • set small, achievable targets, such as visiting the building outside school hours or attending one lesson
  • request a home visit from a school staff member, so your child can check in while feeling safe, see that the school cares and discuss strategies
  • ask for a reduced timetable, with regular reviews to discuss building back up at a manageable rate
  • discuss changing classes or sets if your child thinks this would help
  • focus on qualifications needed for your childs preferred next steps, perhaps dropping a less relevant GCSE to reduce stress.

If there is no other obvious reason for your childs inability to attend, there may be an undiagnosed SEN. Ensure potential underlying conditions, such as autism or ADHD, are investigated and supported.

Tip #: Prepare Your Child For What Is Coming

Feeling prepared makes a change feel way less intimidating than going in blind. Over the last few weeks of summer break, sit down with your child and talk through what will happen. Go over your drop-off and pick-up plans and, if possible, tour your childs school, so they dont feel lost on the first day.

Read Also: How To Calm Stress And Anxiety

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Easing Separation Anxiety Disorder: Tips For School

For children with separation anxiety disorder, attending school can seem overwhelming and a refusal to go is commonplace. But by addressing any root causes for your childs avoidance of school and by making changes at school, though, you can help reduce your childs symptoms.

Help a child who has been absent from school return as quickly as possible. Even if a shorter school day is necessary initially, childrens symptoms are more likely to decrease when they discover that they can survive the separation.

Ask the school to accommodate your childs late arrival. If the school can be lenient about late arrival at first, it can give you and your child a little wiggle room to talk and separate at your childs slower pace.

Identify a safe place. Find a place at school where your child can go to reduce anxiety during stressful periods. Develop guidelines for appropriate use of the safe place.

Allow your child contact with home. At times of stress at school, a brief phone calla minute or twowith family may reduce separation anxiety.

Send notes for your child to read. You can place a note for your child in their lunch box or locker. A quick I love you! on a napkin can reassure a child.

Provide assistance to your child during interactions with peers. An adults help, whether it is from a teacher or counselor, may be beneficial for both your child and the other children theyre interacting with.

How To Handle Preschool Drop

5 tips to support kids with separation anxiety when starting school

No matter how much you prepare, your preschooler will still be full of nerves on their first day. Here’s how to make drop-off a little easier.

Create a goodbye ritual. Having a goodbye routine provides comfort and familiarity, so your child knows what’s to come. This could be anything you and your child decide on, such as a special hug or handshake followed by a “See you later, alligator!” Once you’ve said your goodbyes, it’s best to skedaddle so that your child doesn’t become preoccupied by your presence. A long farewell scene might only serve to reinforce a child’s sense that preschool is a bad place.

Don’t sneak away. That said, some little ones will feel more afraid if you suddenly disappear. Parents should never be ripped away abruptly from their child, says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., child and family psychotherapist and the author of The Self-Aware Parent. It can take up to ten weeks for a child to fully be ready to be left at school without their parent. The best way to handle the separation process is having the parent go to school and sit next to their child. They should not interact with them in games and toys, but rather be there as a safety net.

Remind them that you came back. When you pick them up at the end of the day, reinforce the idea that you came back, just like you said you would. This way, each day’s drop-off won’t feel like you’re both starting teary and upsetting goodbyes all over again.

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Causes And Triggers Of Separation Anxiety

A lot of parents can feel lost wondering what causes separation anxiety in kids, especially when their child has grown out of it for the most part. Causes of separation anxiety in preschoolers are pretty much the same as those in older children, and there are three significant catalysts parents should understand.

Pay Attention To Their Feelings

Listen if the child wants to talk, “without trying to talk the child out of their feelings,” says Dr. Laura Markham, author of “Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids.” Let children know that even if they are nervous, they can face their fears with your support.

In general, when children are anxious, the parents’ job is to communicate to the child that it is normal to feel some anxiety AND they know the child can handle whatever is making them anxious, AND they are there to support the child, Markham says.

In other words, You can handle this. I will help. You can feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s what strengthens the child’s confidence and diminishes the anxiety.

Watch for changes in mood or behavior that might show anxiety children can’t explain yet.

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When Separation Anxiety Becomes More Serious

However, a small number of children experience a level of anxiety that interferes with their daily functioning and learning. When children become anxious more easily, more often and more intensely than other children, they may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, including separation anxiety disorder. About 4% of preschoolers and school-age children develop this condition.

If youre concerned about a childs level of anxiety, note whether:

  • the child appears more anxious, more often, than other children of their age and level
  • their anxiety has continued over a period of time
  • their anxiety stops them participating in activities at the early learning service or school or with peers
  • their anxiety interferes with their ability to do things other children their age do easily
  • the fears seem out of proportion to the issues in their life
  • the child is not attending or refusing to attend the service or school.
  • If you think a child is showing more serious signs of anxiety, speak to their family about your concerns and suggest they talk to their GP. The child may need a referral to a mental health professional for an assessment.

    Read more about anxiety.

    Be You Professional Learning

    Check out content on social and emotional learning and teaching for resilience in the Learning Resilience domain.

    Get Your Child Comfortable With The School

    Children’s Anxiety: 3 Ways to Help Your Anxious Child
  • Walk around the school together and visit their classroom. Do this on a day when your child doesn’t have school. If you can, talk with their teachers and spend a little time in the classroom. Seeing you in the space can help your child associate school with positive feelings. If you’ve got time, play on the playground, too!XResearch source
  • Visit the school, classroom, or playground regularly, so your child becomes familiar with it. Ideally, you’d do this before the school year starts, but even visiting once your child is in school can help.
  • Read Also: How To Calm Anxiety Nausea

    Preparing Your Child For Preschool

    For children who are prone to separation anxiety, feelings of distress when a parent isnt near tend to surface around 8 months old and can wax and wane through age 4 or 5. However, some children who are perfectly content in your absence as babies might develop separation anxiety in the face of a big life changelike a new sibling, a move, or yes, the start of preschool.

    If your child tends to cling to you in social settings or has been showing some anxiety about starting preschool, consider taking special steps to prepare them for the big first day. While you may think avoiding the topic of school will reduce jitters, kids who know what to expect in certain situations and practice routines to get through them are more likely to feel a sense of stability.

    Talk With Your Child’s Teacher About Their Anxiety

  • Discuss your child’s fears so the teacher can help your child cope. It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to say goodbye when your kid is upset, but trust that the teacher will reassure them. They probably have a lot of experience with separation anxiety and they’ll be able to put your child at ease once you leave.XResearch source
  • If your child’s separation anxiety is persistent, ask the school counselor if they can check-in and talk with your child.
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    Create A Farewell Ritual

    Having a farewell routine can be key maybe its as simple as a hug and kiss, maybe its a squeeze of the hand. If the child knows and understands that this is how you say goodbye and that youll be back, theyll be less likely to panic than if you slip out the door and suddenly they cant find you, Mercer points out.

    Recognizing The Signs Of Separation Anxiety

    Help Ease Daycare or School Separation Anxiety

    It often seems like kids are bursting at the seams with emotions, so its sometimes difficult to tell whats a result of their developing emotional intelligence and whats due to separation anxiety. Symptoms of separation anxiety in toddlers include:

    • Excessive clinginess
    • Waking up and crying throughout the night
    • Fear of strangers and even other caregivers

    When kids get older and start attending kindergarten or grade school, things look a little different. These are some of the signs an older child is experiencing separation anxiety starting school or going back to school:

    • Recurring distress when having to go to school
    • Constant worry that something will happen to a parent or other loved one
    • Refusal to leave the house for fear of separation
    • Fear of being alone
    • Nightmares about being separated from parents
    • Complaints of physical ailments when away from home

    Its much easier to identify separation anxiety in school-aged children because theyre more capable of telling you whats wrong and how they feel. They may not come right out and state they are anxious about being apart from you, but their behavior says it all. Their fear of separation often manifests in defiance, especially in the mornings before school or at your drop-off location.

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    How Do You Calm A Child With Separation Anxiety Many Parents Have To Deal With Children That Have Separation Anxiety

    How do you calm a child with separation anxiety? Many parents have to deal with children that have separation anxiety. It is tough to see your child crying while leaving them for work or dropping them off at school. However, there is nothing much you can do to help a child. You often give in to their crying and cancel all your commitments to stay with them. On the other hand, it is exceptionally tricky to send a child with to school. Every morning handling a crying child can take a toll on a parents mental health also.

    Separation anxiety is common in toddlers, and parents can feel helpless when they cannot soothe a child. Most parents have this misconception that their child cannot have any mental issues. The term separation anxiety is still not common amongst people hence, they get anxious when their child cries when going to school. Most parents act strictly with their children when it comes to these situations. However, it is a wrong approach to deal with child separation anxiety. Anxiety is a co-existing condition that is present in many children with ADHD Parents need to be vigilant and treat their children with care.

    How to deal with child separation anxiety

  • Talk to teachers
  • Teachers play the most crucial role in a childs development apart from parents. As a parent, it can be a struggle to get a child with separation anxiety to school. Your journey can be a lot easier if you have the support of teachers.

  • Give them rewards
  • Make things fun for them.
  • Difference Between Normal Separation Anxiety And Separation Anxiety Disorder

    However, at this stage of development, it can be a bit tricky to tell whether a child has normal separation anxiety or separation anxiety disorder.

    One sign that may suggest a disorder is when the anxiety starts to affect the normal activities of kids older than six years. In other words, the intensity of your childs fear can indicate a more severe problem than normal separation anxiety.

    Here are some other common signs of separation anxiety disorder:

    • Unrealistic fear of being left alone
    • Refusing to go to bed without the parent or caregiver staying close by
    • Bedwetting
    • Nightmare about being separated from the parents or primary caregiver
    • Stomachaches, headaches, or other physical symptoms related to the fear of being separated
    • Intense fear
    • Unrelenting pleas or temper tantrums

    If your child constantly complains of physical symptoms or is extremely afraid to go to school because of separation anxiety, you should consider seeing a mental health specialist.

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    Helping Babies And Children With Separation Anxiety

    If your child is suffering from separation anxiety, its best not to avoid separation. Instead, there are many things you can do to gently encourage and help your child.

    In new places

    • If youre leaving your baby or child somewhere new, like a relatives house, child care centre or preschool, spend time at the new place with your child before the separation. Your child will be less distressed if theyre left in a safe, familiar place with familiar people they trust.
    • Let your baby or child take something they love from home, like a teddy bear, pillow or blanket. These objects will help your child feel safer, and you can gradually phase them out as your child feels more settled in the new place.
    • Tell your baby or childs relative, child care centre, preschool or school about their separation anxiety. Also let them know about what youre doing to help your child. This way, other people can give your child consistent support.

    When youre leaving your baby or child

    At home

    Read about the stepladder approach, a gentle behaviour technique that can be used to help children who suffer from separation anxiety.

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    Offer The Student Options

    Tips To Ease Separation Anxiety In Children | Wellbeing

    Once the student is in the door, show them options for different types of activities they may wish to do before the morning routine commences. This will help the child to focus on the mental task of decision-making and may break them from their loop of anxious thoughts. Be sure to offer quiet or alone time as well, as some children will prefer to observe and adjust at their own pace.

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    Managing Multiple Behaviors In The Classroom

    The first day of school is one that teachers often view with a combination of excitement and nervousness themselves! When an entire class arrives at the door on the first day, expect multiple students to struggle in different ways.

    • Prepare the most engaging, low-stress centers.
    • Have a solid plan for the day, but be ready to pivot if necessary.
    • Introduce a calm-down corner with soothing items, stuffed animals, and calm-down bottles.
    • Choose a great story to read about the feelings students might be experiencing, like The Kissing Hand, Llama Llama Misses Mama, or Wilma Jean, the Worry Machine.
    • Have a cubby, hook, or other designated space ready for each child to help them feel like they belong and to help parents locate where items are to go.

    Tms Therapy For Anxiety

    TMS therapy is touted as the future in depression therapy.

    Its actually more effective than medication for treating depression.

    BUT, you know TMS also treats anxiety?

    Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a safe, highly effective treatment of many behavioral health conditions, like obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorders.

    Today well be covering the effectiveness of TMS for anxiety.

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    Tip #: Dont Negate Their Feelings

    Feeling nervous and anxious about not being close to you is a completely natural thing for kids. A childs parent is their most trusted caregiver and a clingy child is a sign of good parenting. The fact that they feel so safe with you is a compliment to your parenting.

    If theyre having a particularly hard moment at drop off or before leaving for school, its important to show grace and patience. Lashing out at your child when your frustration will do nothing but escalate the situation, so its imperative you do your best to be empathetic.

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